Saturday was fun. I hooked up with the Family Bikes crew and we went to Nystrom's to hook up with a bunch of Howard County-ites for a little riding in Patapsco. I haven't been on the mountain bike for a month or so and thought it might be fun.
It was, but not exactly. The bad news first.
My mountain biking fitness is approaching zero and with a year of more or less serious mountain biking under my belt - not enough - I don't have enough know-how to hide it. The tool box has the equivalent of an old screwdriver and a rusty adjustable wrench in it, along with some WD-40 which can be sprayed on everything but which only helps out in select instances. Between doing very road oriented base training (steady zone 2 and tempo stuff) and just doing very little over the holidays, and no mountain biking for over a month, the legs weren't there, or if they were they they stayed on the Howard County side and never made it to the West Baltimore side of the park. Repeated trips into the red zone wiped me out pretty quick, and I soon found myself jogging and pushing up some bits that I could have ridden normally, though there were many parts I couldn't have ridden normally, or ever up to this point. Perhaps the terrain was a bit harder than usual - we descended stuff that we normally climb, which made those trails weirdly technical just from unfamiliarity. Correspondingly, we climbed a lot of stuff that I've only ever descended, turning descents like the Santee trail that are normally a little sketchy for me into hike-a-bike climbs for the weak (me). I'm afraid I tested the group's patience sorely, and I'm aware that if we all meet up in a bar in Ellicott City, the first round is necessarily on me. Sorry guys. Next time I'm heading up Soapstone or Vineyard and meeting you on the top rather than inflicting that hurry-up-and-go routine on you.
On the positive side, the ride wasn't that bad in some respects. No big crashes, probably because two thirds of our time was spent going uphill. The upper body and core work I'm doing is paying big dividends. Perhaps 15 or 20 minutes four times a week, with 5 minutes of core work, makes hopping logs and roots very easy work, and reduces the perceived exertion of highly technical sections generally. No backache, no arm pump. It appears that the log hopping skills are actually coming along - I got backhanded compliments from no less than three people to the effect that, "you no longer look so f*&#ing clueless on logs." That would ordinarily be humiliating but with just a year of semi-serious MTB'ing under my belt and lacking superpowers, I don't think it's meant as an insult. The log hop is a fundamental skill for most of the technical riding around here because there are so many logs, roots, waterbars and similar features. You have to be able to flow over them because the bash & go style of riding them will wear you out like a set of VO2 intervals. As always, the best part was getting to ride with my friends, plus some of the folks in that Howard County crew who I don't know that well but who are good guys. Mountain biking is the kind of fun activity where the fun increases exponentially by adding some friends, especially where your friends ride well and you can learn some things by watching.
On the balance, it was pretty dis-spiriting to realize how far I have to go. Some rides are like that and doing an unfamiliar ride that was more technical and steeper than I'm used to was a bucket of cold water in the face. It was still good but sometimes the good you take away from a ride is not the joy of triumph, but the more sober appreciation of knowing the truth and having a blunt evaluation of your weaknesses along with a real understanding of the situation. Riding a bike sometimes helps you get to yourself more quickly than you would otherwise.
Saturday night was fun with a party at Ken Bob's and Jean Bean's. It was primarily Coppis but included a bunch of friends of Ken's and Jeans, got to hang out with some of my favorite fellow racers. It hit me that although I know these folks through racing, I would want to be friends with many of them regardless of the cycling connection. They're just energetic, decent, interesting people, and they bring a lot of fun to my (and I suppose each other's) lives. Good company.
Sunday was a mixture of shock, horror, queasiness and befuddlement. The weather was pretty scummy with some wet roads and cold, so I stuck to the trainer during the NY Giants game. Since I couldn't do the assigned workout I did one-leg drills and what not for about 90 minutes. I watched the Giants lose their playoff game against the Eagles. It struck me during the first half that the Giants weren't really playing to win. They were playing to not lose. The defense was in soft coverage, the receivers weren't going after balls aggressively... it was a tense, tightrope performance for them and while the defense was alright, the offense never really settled down and played properly. It was like two and a half hours of listening to an orchestra warming up, but then instead of playing a concerto the crowd walked out and went home. Ugly.
The one leg drills were awful. Apparently, I mash worse than I used to because they were really hard. I don't realy have a dead spot as much as a dead region.
After all that, I spent the rest of the day with a stomach ache and nausea. I think the annual Chest Infestation is making an appearance, which really bothers me because I have some stuff at work that is on a non-negotiable schedule. This would be a really bad time to go down with the grippe. Roll in some insomnia, and that's why I'm sitting here at 4:00 AM blogging this and wondering if I go back to bed, whether I can get 90 minutes more sleep before the alarm clock comes and kicks my butt.